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The COVID-19 recession left many people in NSW under increased financial pressure, as reductions in work hours and higher rates of unemployment reduced incomes. While the employment outlook across NSW has improved, unemployment remains above pre COVID-19 levels, with 220,400 people unemployed in NSW as of May 2021, 28,400 more than in January 2020.

The withdrawal of the Jobseeker supplement and Jobkeeper program has exposed impacted households to increased financial hardship.

What's in the 2021-22 Budget

  • $14.2 million in recurrent expenditure invested in expanding the Cost of Living Service to assist people to apply for existing concessions and rebates.
  • $150 million to continue the delivery of the Free Preschool program for school year 2022, providing support for parents when the current COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program concludes at end 2021. Preschools opting into the program will be required to provide at least 600 hours of free preschool per year (approx. 15 hours or 2 days per week) to all eligible preschool children.
  • $78.5 million ($314 million recurrent expenses over 4 years) to continue existing pensioner council rate concessions to assist councils in easing the cost of living.
  • $152.1 million ($635 million recurrent expenses over 4 years) to continue water rebates for low income households to assist with the cost living.
  • $50 million to provide digital vouchers for dining and entertainment in the Sydney CBD to support the local economy.
  • $22.2 million ($43.9 million over 2 years) for the Learn to Swim Active Pre-Schooler Voucher program to give children aged 3-6 years and not yet enrolled in school the opportunity to develop critical swimming and water safety skills by providing one $100 voucher per year for eligible swimming programs.

What does it mean for those doing it tough?

This budget maintains expenditure on existing cost of living programs to support low income households to meet the costs of critical utilities. Additional investments have been made in the Cost of Living Service, delivered by Service NSW, which assists households to apply for existing concessions and rebates.

People who are already accessing cost of living supports will not receive additional support in this budget. However for people who have yet to access existing supports, may benefit from the expansion of the Cost of Living service which may improve their access to concessions and rebates.

This budget provides some additional cost of living support for families with young children. However, this support is untargeted, is not directed towards reducing the costs of essentials and provides little assistance to those doing it tough.

What is needed?

Further action is needed to reduce the cost of essential goods and services for households, with a focus on those doing it toughest.

Investments should be made to improve the energy efficiency of public and community housing to drive down household energy costs.

Investments should be made to improve access to transport for vulnerable people by extending the $2.50 per day Opal Gold and Regional Excursion Daily pensioner transport fares to Jobseeker recipients.

Further information

Sector priorities:



Housing and homelessness

Domestic violence

Child protection


Mental health